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Perceived anxiety and plasma cortisol concentrations following rock climbing with differing safety rope protocols


Objectives: To examine how different safety rope protocols impact on subjective anxiety and self-confidence levels and plasma cortisol concentrations and the relationship between subjective states and cortisol during rock climbing.

Methods: Participants (n = 12) were tested in three climbing conditions that were designed to invoke low, moderate and high physical and mental stress. Plasma cortisol concentrations were collected before and after climbing and participants reported subjective anxiety and self-confidence states for each climb.

Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance showed significant differences between conditions for somatic anxiety (F2, 22 = 7.74, p = 0.009), self-confidence (F2, 22 = 9.52, p = 0.001) and change in plasma cortisol concentration (F2, 22 = 3.71, p = 0.041). Preplanned polynomial comparisons showed that these were linear effects; somatic anxiety was higher in the higher stress conditions whilst self-confidence was lower. Plasma cortisol concentration change was also linear. Regression analyses showed cubic relationships between plasma cortisol concentration and cognitive anxiety (R2 = 0.452), self-confidence (R2 = 0.281) and somatic anxiety (R2 = 0.268).

Conclusions: There is a relationship between plasma cortisol concentration and subjective anxiety and self-confidence states during rock climbing. Changes in the way the safety rope is organised can impact on anxiety, cortisol concentration and self-confidence during rock climbing.

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